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Behr & Vasari: Log Series - Homestead: Creature Comforts

Outpost Phoenix: Personal Com-Net


by Doctor S. Vasari & Lieutenant Junior Grade Lukas Behr
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Log Series: Homestead CREATURE COMFORTS
Lieutenant j.g. Behr and Lieutenant j.g. Vasari
(Note: This series takes place immediately following the Inquisition of Masterson plot.)


There had been four days of dry weather, so he rushed to get the roof on the house and exterior plywood to better protect the interior - and so they could work on it despite the rain.  With the help of some security and operations officers, they accomplished it in two days. And just in time for more rain. German curses were steady for his lips as he spent the first day on the roof patching holes that appeared.  Haste had made them sloppy. The second day he spent in the smaller makeshift building curled in blankets because the driving rain had soaked him to the bone. The chill lingered but he was at least helping with last minute decisions.


At the end of the week, he was able to get into the house and start working on plumbing and wiring.  It was new territory for him, but he had a PADD with him at all times to show him how to do it. Luckily, he was fantastic at following directions and schematics.  Jane was always there to lend a hand. And her coworker often stopped by to help with the electrical. The German couldn't help but feel a bit annoyed, or maybe it was jealousy.  So he asked an engineer, Tomas Mazzi, to come by and help. It relieved the tension for all of a day until she brought another coworker who could help with the plumping. “Was, ist er Proktologe? (What, is he a proctologist?)” he muttered when the heavy emotion returned.  Lukas found himself standing closer to the medical officer, helping her help him, as if he could make any sort of claim to her.


Once all that work was complete, the roof was finished.  Drywall went up next. Hardwood floors were laid and then covered to protect them from the rest of construction.  By the end of two weeks, it was starting to look more like a house than a bunch of wood pieced together. Windows were set in and the rock face was slow to go up because the thin pieces were heavy and had to be held in place.


It'd been an especially long day of work.  Friends and colleagues assisted when they could.  While Lukas worked on the exterior with a few of his friends from security and operations, Jane remained inside with the three men from medical who assisted her with the detailed installation of hardwood floors, backsplashes, and baseboards.  It was a group effort to move quickly but with precision. One was building his own property, and both friends eagerly agreed to assist him if he called for it. The exchange of labour was more than fair.


She had no idea why Lukas was so unfriendly to her colleagues.  The three lab technicians had been extremely helpful. There was barely anything left to do.  Painting was going to be fun and the appliances were scheduled to arrive in a week or two. When the Puerto Rican, Rigelian, and Denevan invited them to dinner, the German's grunt of a response had her declining on both of their behalf.  She sent the technicians away with the promise of having lunch with them in a few days and told them to pilot their shuttle carefully as the wind indicated the storm was bound to hit at any given moment. The wind howled loudly and rain pelted the thin material that served as the walls for their makeshift home.  


The chair had been moved to the doorway so he could sit and watch the rain.  His arms were folded over his chest and his expression was still sour. Lukas was tired and grumpy and starting to second guess the decision to live with the medical officer.  There had been no real movement in their relationship, which was both a good and bad thing. He still couldn't force himself to let go so hope kept him waiting. A soft groan slipped from his lips and he lifted his hand to rub his temple.  His headache was persistent.


It was well after dinner and the sprint to complete the house the last few days wore her down, so Jane prepared for bed.  She couldn't quite understand why her housemate-to-be was so grumpy. There was absolutely no reason for it. It exhausted her in a different way.  It was before nine, but the thought of curling into bed was certainly more appealing than staying up to her normal hours. The plan was a good story then sliding into the comforts of her dreams.  “I'm going to bed,” she announced as she stood by the curtain that kept her designated bedroom space from view. The lacy silk that normally kept her modest was hidden by a silk nightgown. Her lips formed a thin line as she stared at the back of his head.  Her mouth opened to ask if anything was wrong, but something else tumbled from her tongue. “What's the plan for tomorrow?”


He leaned forward slightly and turned his head to peer up into the sky.  His gaze moved over the horizon before he leaned fully forward to stand up from the chair.  “Looks dark,” he grumbled as he picked up the seat and replaced it at the table. Lukas reached for one of the PADDs and thumbed through the files for a current weather report, then the forecast.  “Yeah, more rain tomorrow. We could install cabinets.” The German set the device down and glanced toward Jane for her confirmation or suggestion that they do something else. His eyes lingered on the robe as he envisioned what was beneath it.


She was rather worried that his haste to build their home was wearing at him.  “We could,” she started carefully. “But, how about a break? If it's going to rain, why don't we just head to the outpost?  I could reserve a holosuite? Get you some sunshine? Mauricio said he'd help me install the cabinets when it was time, but there's no rush, right?”   


The twitch in his eye and lip were subtle at the mentioning of the medical technician and he swallowed the grumble that threatened in his throat.  Her thought for his sanity was appreciated, but quickly drowned by the jealousy that came with her hanging around another man. “With your help, I can get the cabinets up.”  Lukas lifted his hand to rest on one of the supports and he leaned heavily on the beam. “Es gibt keine Eile. Lass uns das Haus fertig machen, damit du deine Jungs an deine Seite bringen kannst und ich kann auf meiner Seite schmollen. (There's no rush.  Let's just get the house done so you can bring guys to your side and I'll sulk on my side.)” His gaze lifted briefly to the ceiling before he moved toward the curtain that separated his mattress from the rest of the space.


The wind howled angrily and the steady rain pelted the exterior of their makeshift shelter.  Thunder rolled with the heavy clouds and lightning flashed in the distance. The earth shook ever so slightly with each roaring clap and the panels trembled with the force of the tempest that grew steadily.


Like always, she had no idea what he had said, but there was something in his tone and demeanor that told her it wasn't anything good.  “What's wrong?” she asked finally, her hands flopping to her sides. “You've been sulking for days, and I have no idea why. The house is almost done.  It's absolutely beautiful. You should be happy. Is it the rain? Are you overworked? Are you-” The question died in her throat as a panel from their shelter flew with a gust of wind.  


The deluge of rain fell over the hot plate and the table in the center space.  “Merda!” With one panel gone, the structure lost its integrity and the frame buckled as it threatened to fall.  Another piece of their makeshift shelter clattered onto the table.


Lukas reacted on instinct, reaching to grab Jane by the wrist as he draped his arm over her back and placed his hand protectively on her neck.  “Come on!” he shouted over the storm as he guided her toward the door. The house was finished enough that they would be safe within its walls.


“We have to get the panel back!” she called out over the thunderous clap.  Jane struggled against his grasp, fully intending to find the panel that had flown away.  Her braid came undone, her hair whipping at her chin before it became too heavy with rain and clung to her skin.  There was some notion of running on the wet grass towards the house. The silk that kept her modest stuck to her as she was soaked by the rain within the first three steps out into the open. The rain flew sideways with the force of the brutal wind.  It whipped at the hem of the cream nightgown and the black silk robe, but the material only clung to her form.


His grip was strong, though the rain made her skin slippery.  He curled his fingers into her neck to maintain his hold on her.  “I'll get it! You get into the house!” The thundering of the rain and lightning forced him to shout despite Jane being right next to him.


“No!” she screamed at him and turned to grab his arm when they neared the covered porch and she felt him ready to disappear out into the storm in search of the panel.  “I'll help! I can help!”


Lukas gripped both her arms and stopped her firmly under the shelter of the porch.  “You can help by being safe and contacting the outpost if something else goes wrong.”  He'd lowered his voice, but his baritone was certain, demanding. It was as if he were ordering her to remain where she was.  His eyes locked with hers and he waited for her to acknowledge him.


Her fingers curled into his arm and she shook her head furiously.  This wasn't a normal argument. She didn't want him to go, didn't want him to be in danger.  “No!” A clap of thunder overwhelmed her voice so she shook her head as she repeated it. “No!  If you go! I go!” She planted her bare feet into the wooden boards. There was some inkling of realization that she was cold, but Jane was so focused on the German operations officer that she barely recognized the chill seeping into her bones.  


“Verdammt.  Ich werde dich in dieses Haus sperren müssen, oder? (I'm going to have to lock you into this house, aren't I?)”  He stared down at her for several moments before shaking his head. “Then we aren't going.” His hand was firm on her shoulder as he tried to turn her while he reached for the door to the house.  There was no thought to how his hair was flat on his head and sticking to his forehead and temples. The thin and tight t-shirt was soaked and became translucent as it clung to his skin. The tattoo on his shoulder was easy to see.  His cargo shorts had become heavy with moisture and hung low on his hips from the weight.


“But-”  Jane turned just as she heard another panel fly from the shelter.  The square flew out of her sight within seconds. “We need-”


“We'll get it in the morning!”  His head turned to follow her gaze and his lips formed a thin line.  It might have been a better idea to shelter in the shuttle. At least sleeping would have been more comfortable.  Lukas grunted and shook his head at his short sightedness. Upon opening the door, his gaze shifted over the empty space and another groan moved through his chest.  The paper he'd laid on the hardwood wouldn't protect them against the moisture in their clothes and they had nothing to change into. …˜She's not gonna go for naked sleeping.'  He raised his hand to rub his jaw before pushing around the medical officer.


Her hand rested on his back, fingers curling to grip at the soaked shirt when he appeared to be heading out into the storm.  “Where are you going?!” she called out to him. The shirt remained in her hand despite how he moved around her. “I thought you said we were staying here!”


He paused and held his hand up for her to stay where she was.  “The shuttle,” he answered quickly. “I'm going to get blankets-”


“You're not going without me!”


“Bleib einfach hier!  Ich werde nicht lange sein! (Just stay here!  I won't be long.)” His motions indicated that he desired her to stay under the protection of the porch.  “Ich werde weniger als fünf Minuten sein! Du wirst deinen kalten Tod bekommen! (I'll be gone for five minutes!  You'll catch your death of cold!)”


She had no way of knowing what he was saying.  His accent was too thick, the dialect too old, and the speed of his tongue too quick for the universal translator to ever work.  Jane didn't need it though. She had a feeling he was telling her to stay. “Ti ho detto che non andrai senza di me! (I told you that you're not going without me!)” she screamed after him.  The medical officer released his shirt and turned around to slam the door shut. She had enough sense to know that the storm would damage the progress they'd made in the last few days. She ran after him, feet pressing into the rain soaked earth.  “Sei così dannatamente testardo! (You're so damn stubborn!)”


He'd heard that word before, enough to know what it meant.  “Ich versuche nur auf dich aufzupassen! Entschuldigen Sie dass es mir so wichtig ist! (I'm just trying to look out for you!  I'm sorry I care so much!)” He heard that her voice was close, so it meant that she'd followed him out into the storm. His footfalls were hollow over the wooden bridge that they'd built first.


She'd heard …˜entschuldigen Sie' enough to know he was apologising, but the rest of his sentence was lost to her.  The howling wind didn't help either. His words were garbled. The strap to her robe came undone and she struggled to gather the material to keep herself wrapped in the silk.  “Non dire scusa se non lo intendi, fottuto culo! (Don't say sorry if you don't mean it, you ass!)” Jane continued to chase after him, running against the wind that threatened to push her back.  Her shoulders curled and her back bowed as she tried to make herself small.


His fingers were quick over the panel to open the hatch of the shuttle and he reached to grab Jane once again, pulling her into the vessel.  Lukas turned to enter the small space when the familiar sensation of ionized particles began to swirl close by. He'd been in enough thunderstorms, camping outside amongst the trees, to know when a bolt was preparing to hit close by.  The invisible hairs on the back of his neck stood up.


The flash of light was unexpected as lightning struck the island.  The arched streak of blue cut through a tall and heavy tree. The scent of burning wood was swept away by the wind.  The lake whistled eerily, almost shrill in its cry, as the current of air traveled down into the crater of the dormant volcano.  A creaking sound was lost to the howling siren call and the barrage of thunder drowned out the rustling of leaves as the evergreen tipped to one side.


The operations officer watched the old pine topple over, the branches reaching and gripping for its neighbour to remain standing.  The trunk smoldered where the lightning had burnt through the sap and bark, giving the air an oddly sweet but acrid smell. The tree fell as any lumberjack would hope for, except that it crashed directly onto the wooden bridge that connected the smaller island to the main one.  “Scheiße.”


It was as if she was watching the entire scene unfold in slow motion.  For the briefest of moments, she didn't feel the rain as it bombarded her skin with hard ice-like droplets or the force of the earth shake under her bare feet.  She watched as the tree tipped to one side and crashed into the arched bridge. It was almost graceful in its destruction. There was the briefest moment of relief when she saw the obstruction to their path, thinking that the viaduct had managed to hold.   The moment didn't last long because the bridge cracked and collapsed under the weight of the heavy evergreen. “E questo è il motivo per cui ti ho detto che non volevo che te ne andassi. (And, this is why I told you I didn't want you going.)” The words were muttered under her breath as she felt the fight leave her limbs.  She was too shocked to feel anything else.


“Ich verstehe dich nicht. (I don't understand you.)”  He rarely used the phrase, only when he actually wanted to know what she said.  There was no need for the mystery in this moment. Lukas peeled his gaze from the tree to look down at the Italian woman.


“It's not important,” she muttered ini response.  The phrase he uttered to her wasn't one he used very often, but she knew it meant he wanted to know what she had said.  It was the first time she didn't feel the desire to tell him the translation. The last thing they both needed was an …˜I told you so'.  Her body shook with the chill of the weather and the realization that he could have been squashed by the tree. Had she not followed after him, he would have been faster at retrieving whatever it was he needed from the shuttle and he would have been on the bridge at the wrong time.  Her fingers curled into his shirt and she shook her head furiously to shake away the thought. “Let's- Shuttle. Into the shuttle.” Her words were a weak whisper.


His argument that it was important was forgotten and he wrapped his arm around her so that she might let go of his shirt.  Her grip was still firm into the fabric and he could feel her trembling from the cold. Once they were inside, he pulled the medical kit down and took out the emergency blanket.  It was draped over Jane's shoulders and he guided her to sit on one of the two benches. Lukas ignored the chill in his own body to be sure that the medical officer was taken care of first.  He moved to the back in search of the other emergency kit.


She stood up and made her way to the cockpit, the blanket draped over her shoulders.  She glanced out to watch the storm. Water dripped from her hair and from her clothes.  A flash of lightning had her stumbling back and she shook her head. “I don't think this is going to end any time soon,” she muttered.  Jane quickly glanced over her shoulder. Lukas appeared busy so she draped the silver blanket over one of the pilot chairs. “Don't look.”  She turned her back to him and began pulling at the wet silk that clung to her to undress.


Her request only had him glancing over his shoulder and his rummaging in the storage locker stopped so he could watch.  The German officer leaned against the wall and his eyes moved freely over her body as she twisted and contorted. After a few moments, sensibility overcame him and he turned his chin to avert his gaze.  “Ich habe dich schon einmal gesehen, (I've seen you before.)” he murmured before focusing back on his search. New frustrations surfaced and he grunted at his racing thoughts.


Free of the soaked clothes, she draped the silver blanket over herself.  The sheet was thin, so it was easy to wrap around her chest and use the edge to tie a knot that would keep it wrapped around her.  She moved towards the door and she squeezed whatever she could out from the silk she'd worn for bed. The water splashed on the metal floor, but at least it didn't further soak the carpet by the cockpit.  Sleeping in the shuttle was certainly not on her agenda for the evening, but it was clear the storm wasn't going to stop any time soon. She sighed softly as she fell onto the bench and she turned to watch him rummaging through the emergency equipment.  “Could we head back to the outpost for the night?” she asked him, simply asking what their options were.


…˜So you can stay with Mauricio?'  He shifted his gaze back toward the medical officer and hummed with his thought.  Lukas closed the locker door and turned to search the other one. “Probably. I'll have to see how this thing could handle the weather.”  He returned to quietly cursing whomever had been the last to inspect this shuttle, because everything was misplaced. Frustration continued to mount.


She nodded in understanding and her chin dipped as her bare feet slid softly over the fibers.  Her fingers curled over the edge of the bench she occupied. “Well- I suppose it'd be good to try,” she murmured softly.  Jane went through a list of places they could stay, but the two friends ran in different circles. “Suppongo che starebbe con Therese (I suppose he'd be staying with Therese),” she whispered under her breath.  “Onestamente. Quale donna si offre di lasciare che un uomo dorma sul suo divano per così tanto tempo e non voglia dormire con lui? (Honestly. What woman offers to let a man sleep on her couch for that long and not want to sleep with him?)”  The musing was muttered under her breath as she realized she really didn't like the Norwegian woman at all, despite never having met her. “Scommetto che pensa di essere troppo brava per lui. Stupida puttana. Sarebbe stata fortunata ad avere un ragazzo come lui.  (I bet she thinks she's too good for him. Stupid. She'd be lucky to get a guy like him.)”


Finally, he yanked the blanket from its bag and snapped it open.  He quickly wrapped it around his shoulders and hunched into the heat.  His steps from the back of the shuttle to the front sloshed due to his soaked shoes.  Lukas moved around the pilot's chair and settled into it, ignoring the light shiver that caused him to tremble.  His fingers moved over the console and his gaze shifted between the screen and the window of the shuttle as he looked outside.  The relief in his voice was outweighed by concern. “I wouldn't want to chance flying. Conditions are pretty terrible.” The operations officer turned so that he could face Jane.  “I'd rather just hang out here for the night.” The end of his sentence was clipped as he considered all the work that would need to be done in the morning. A low groan rumbled in his throat as he ticked off the list.  …˜Cut up the tree, repair the bridge, find the panels, put our shelter back together, dry out everything that was in there.'  Then his thoughts shifted to the house.  …˜This is the most rain we've seen in such a short period of time.  We'll have to check the foundation and the roof to be sure it didn't leak.  What a mess.'


His voice pulled her from her thoughts and her gaze shifted to quickly observe their setting.  It wasn't going to be pleasant, but Jane was rather happy to hear that he wasn't going to be spending any time with Therese Bjornsen.  She nodded and she straightened as her hands lifted from the edge of the bench to cover her eyes. “Well- Off with your clothes,” she instructed him.  “Without power, it'll get cold fast in here, and your core temperature will suffer. So. Off. All of it.”


“Du hast mich schon mal gesehen, (You've seen me before.)” he informed her as he pushed to his feet.  A quick glance around the shuttle pointed him toward the door where she'd piled her clothes and he moved there to add his.  His shoes came off, then his shirt, and finally the shorts and undergarment. He laid them on the floor so they would dry faster and more evenly.  Lukas picked the blanket back up and wrapped it around himself before moving to the bench opposite Jane. “We could turn the power on in spurts to warm it back up.”  He dropped to the thin cushion and adjusted to lay back. “Or pull the cushions off, put them on the floor, and curl up for body heat.”


Personally, she would have preferred the cuddling option, but that was for selfish reason.  Certainly not one a friend would pick. It was the worst of the offered options. She really liked Lukas and being so close to him in such an intimate setting ran the risk of her opening her mouth and saying something that would ruin the friendship.  They flirted, yes, but the Italian was sure he did it out of jest and not because he still carried feelings for her. Besides, he deserved a woman who wasn't selfish, and she was convinced she was nowhere near being that person. It seemed that they had just gotten back to a good place, and Jane didn't want to jeopardize the peace that existed between them.  She sighed softly and relented to the logic. “Spurts of power,” she whispered as she adjusted the emergency blanket around herself.


His groan was simply from having to push back up to sit, not out of frustration or irritation.  He pushed to his feet, holding the blanket together in one hand in front of him. Lukas made his way back to the storage area and pulled out two more blankets.  He approached Jane and offered her one. “I've got to run the calculations,” he murmured, leaving her for the cockpit once she'd taken the other blanket. He tossed the second one for himself onto the bench and flopped back into the chair.  The silver warming blanket fell from his shoulders as he focused both hands on tapping into the console.


She leaned to one side as her feet pulled up, and Jane curled in on herself as she rested on her side.  One blanket wrapped around her body to keep her modest, the makeshift shoulderless gown tightly kept together around her form by a thick knot.  The second blanket was draped over her and she pinned the thin sheets between her legs to cover her feet. An arm slid under her head to serve as a pillow and she stared at the wall across from her.  Her thoughts were a mess and she wondered why she ever thought it was a good idea to live with the German operations officer. There was no way in the entire universe she'd be able to keep her mouth shut to preserve their friendship.  …˜Spiegherò che voglio riprovare.  Mi dirà che ho avuto la mia possibilità, e poi dove sarò?'  She sighed softly.  …˜Non è importante.  Allora ero una ragazza di merda e adesso sarei una ragazza di merda.  Merita davvero di meglio.'


A frown pulled at his features as he looked over the numbers.  If they ran the engines even once to warm the shuttle, it would drain the fuel cells enough that it would be three days before they regained enough power to make it back to Phoenix.  They both had shifts to work not tomorrow but the day after. Lukas sighed and turned to face Jane. He sat and watched her for several moments, the blanket pooled around his waist. “Civetta,” he called to her quietly.  “Change of plans. If we run the shuttle, we won't be able to get to the outpost for a couple days.” He leaned forward and pushed to his feet, approaching the bench so he could move the cushion to the floor.


Her eyes lifted to the ceiling and she silently cursed the deities and their cruel joke.  It wasn't funny. It wasn't fair. With a sigh, she sat up and followed his example, sliding the thin bench cushion to the floor.  The blanket that wasn't tied around her was folded several times and she offered it to him as his pillow. “Try not to kick me in your sleep,” she teased softly, desperately trying to ignore the fluttering in her stomach as she settled on the bench cushion that she'd turned into her bed for the evening.


“Don't steal all the blankets,” he retorted in a raspy baritone.  The blanket she'd handed him was unfolded once so that it extended far enough to give them both a bit of cushion to rest their head.  Lukas placed it on the bench cushions and then lowered to his knees. He adjusted and turned to roll onto his side. “You can curl to my back.  Warmest part of the body.” The German immediately kicked himself for saying it. …˜She's a medical officer, of course she knows that.'  He grunted softly and spread the fourth blanket to ease it over both of them before he settled down.


There was the slightest shake of her head as she leaned back to rest on her side, her back facing the German.  “I'll be fine,” she whispered softly. The last thing she needed was to be cuddling with her best friend. He would undoubtedly be able to hear the racing beat of her heart and there was no way she'd be able to keep from letting her lips brush against his spine.  Her legs curled in slightly and she slid her arm under the makeshift pillow that they shared. …˜Non sognarlo.  Non sognarlo. Non sognarlo.'  The mantra did nothing to ease the tension that kept her stiff.  She was sure there was no sleeping that evening, but exhaustion took hold far faster than normal.


   
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